“Siege and Storm,” the second novel in Leigh Bardugo’s celebrated Shadow and Bone trilogy, propels readers further into the captivating Grishaverse.
Following the success of her debut, “Shadow and Bone,” Bardugo’s sequel seamlessly blends 19th-century European influences with rich Slavic folklore, creating a world where magic and mayhem intertwine.
In this sequel, readers reunite with Alina Starkov, now known as the Sun Summoner due to her unique ability to summon light, a power that sets her apart in the Grisha realm.
The Grisha, gifted with the Small Sciences, can manipulate matter, appearance, and natural elements. Alina’s journey is set against the backdrop of Ravka, a land torn apart by the Fold, a swath of impenetrable darkness, home to the lethal volcra.
“Siege and Storm” opens with Alina and her childhood friend, Malyen “Mal” Oretsev, escaping Ravka’s turmoil.
However, their relief is short-lived as they are captured by the Darkling, the series’ ominous antagonist, and his Grisha soldiers.
The Darkling, also known as the Black Heretic, is a formidable Shadow Summoner who expanded the Fold and now seeks further amplification of his powers.
Enter Sturmhond, a cunning Ravkan privateer, and his diverse crew, including the towering Tolya and his twin sister, Tamar, from Shu Han.
Sturmhond’s ship becomes the stage for a gripping confrontation and subsequent alliance with Alina and Mal. As Alina embraces the amplifying power of the sea whip’s scales, she learns of a third amplifier, the firebird, setting her on a new quest.
In a stunning twist, Sturmhond reveals his true identity as Nikolai Lantsov, Ravka’s prince, who enlists Alina’s help in his bid for the throne. Nikolai’s proposition extends beyond politics, as he desires Alina to be his queen.
However, Alina, driven by her duty, demands command of the Second Army, an elite force of Grisha soldiers.
As Alina takes on this role, she confronts the burgeoning cult surrounding her as a saint, forming a war council with Grisha factions: the Corporalki, Materialki, and Etherealki. Meanwhile, her relationship with Mal strains under the weight of duty, politics, and the looming shadow of the Darkling.
The novel crescendos at Nikolai’s birthday party, where a shocking betrayal leads to a devastating attack by the Darkling’s forces.
In a heroic sacrifice, Alina confronts the Darkling, using her power in a desperate bid to save her friends.
Alina and Mal, now deeply changed by their experiences, escape to the White Cathedral, a symbolic tomb for Alina’s past self. As they heal, Alina’s transformation is not just internal; her hair turns white, marking her rebirth for the challenges ahead.
Once an average cartographer, Alina Starkov’s life takes a dramatic turn when she discovers her extraordinary Grisha ability to summon sunlight.
In “Siege and Storm,” Alina grapples with the heavy burden of her powers and the guilt from the tragic events in “Shadow and Bone.”
Tormented by her association with the Darkling and her unintentional role in the devastation of Novokribirsk, Alina is caught in a maelstrom of self-doubt and identity crisis.
Her journey is one of internal struggle, as she contends with her growing power, her strained relationship with Mal, and her complex connection with the Darkling.
Alina’s evolution from a reluctant hero to a determined leader ready to embrace her new incarnation is central to the narrative.
Malyen “Mal” Oretsev
Mal, Alina’s steadfast childhood friend and love interest, epitomizes loyalty and bravery.
As a non-Grisha, or otkazat’sya, Mal’s world is upended as he witnesses Alina’s ascent into the Grisha elite. His exceptional tracking skills earn him the role of captain of Alina’s guard, but his heart remains torn.
The novel portrays Mal’s inner conflict as he struggles to reconcile his feelings for Alina with the reality of her growing powers.
His journey is marred by self-destructive behaviors, yet his inherent heroism shines through, particularly in his unwavering commitment to Alina’s safety.
The enigmatic and powerful Darkling stands as the trilogy’s main antagonist, embodying ambition and corruption. His desire to control Ravka and expand the Fold drives the plot’s tension.
In “Siege and Storm,” the Darkling’s complex relationship with Alina takes center stage. He is depicted as a master manipulator, employing psychological tactics and physical intimidation to bend Alina to his will. His character is a study in the corrupting influence of power and the darkness that lies within.
Sturmhond, later revealed as Nikolai Lantsov, is a multifaceted character combining charm, intelligence, and political acumen.
As a privateer turned prince, Nikolai plays a pivotal role in Alina’s quest for the amplifiers.
His witty demeanor and engineering prowess are matched by his deep commitment to Ravka’s welfare.
The novel explores his strategic mind and potential as a leader, as well as his complex relationship with Alina, marked by mutual respect and unfulfilled romantic tension.
Zoya, initially a minor adversary to Alina, undergoes significant character development.
As a Squaller, her loyalty shifts following the Darkling’s betrayal. Zoya’s interactions with Alina and Mal add depth to the narrative, highlighting themes of betrayal, redemption, and the complexities of political and personal alliances.
David, a gifted Fabrikator, represents the moral conflicts inherent in the Grisha world. His role in fashioning Alina’s amplifier and his subsequent guilt symbolize the unintended consequences of one’s actions.
His contributions to Alina’s battle strategies and his underlying ethical dilemmas add a layer of complexity to the story.
Tolya and Tamar
Tolya and Tamar, the formidable Shu twins, add a dynamic element to Alina’s guard. Their loyalty and combat skills are indispensable to Alina’s endeavors.
The twins’ devotion to their faith and Alina’s cause, along with their personal backstories, enrich the narrative, offering insights into loyalty, faith, and the diversity within the Grisha world.
The Apparat, a mysterious and influential religious figure, embodies the intersection of faith, politics, and power. His ambiguous loyalties and motivations, especially regarding Alina’s portrayal as a saint, contribute to the novel’s exploration of religious zeal and political maneuvering.
The Apparat’s actions and influence raise questions about the true nature of his devotion and the potential exploitation of faith for personal gain.
1. The Burden of Power and Leadership
“Siege and Storm” delves deeply into the complexities of power and the heavy burden it places on those who wield it.
Alina Starkov, the Sun Summoner, is at the heart of this exploration. Her unique ability to summon light sets her apart, bestowing upon her not just power but also immense responsibility.
As she grapples with her role as a potential savior of Ravka, Alina’s journey symbolizes the perennial struggle between personal desires and the demands of leadership. The amplifiers, artifacts that enhance her power, serve as metaphors for the seduction of power and the peril of becoming consumed by it.
Furthermore, the novel examines the moral dilemmas leaders face, particularly through Alina’s interactions with Prince Nikolai and the Darkling, each representing different facets of power and governance.
This theme resonates throughout the narrative, questioning the true cost of power and the sacrifices required of those who bear its weight.
2. Identity and Self-Discovery
Bardugo skillfully weaves the theme of identity throughout the narrative, presenting it as a journey of self-discovery and acceptance.
Alina’s transformation from a mere orphan to the revered Sun Summoner illustrates a profound evolution of self.
The physical and emotional changes she undergoes, especially with her powers and the appearance of her hair turning white, are symbolic of her internal struggle and growth.
This theme is not exclusive to Alina; other characters, such as Mal and Nikolai, also face their own battles with identity.
Mal’s journey from a soldier to the head of Alina’s guard, and Nikolai’s dual life as a privateer and a prince, reflect the multifaceted nature of identity.
The characters’ struggles with who they are versus who they are expected to be highlight the universal quest for self-discovery and the courage it takes to embrace one’s true self.
3. The Nature of Sacrifice and Love
At its core, the novel is a poignant exploration of sacrifice and its intertwining with love.
The novel presents various forms of sacrifice, from Alina’s relinquishing of personal happiness for the greater good to Mal’s dedication and loyalty to her despite the cost to his own well-being.
The relationship between Alina and Mal is a testament to the sacrifices made in the name of love, showcasing how love often requires letting go of personal desires for the sake of the other.
Similarly, the choices made by other characters, like Nikolai, who is willing to risk his life and kingdom for Ravka, underscore the theme of sacrifice for a cause greater than oneself.
This theme is intricately linked with the characters’ development, as they learn that true love, whether romantic, platonic, or patriotic, often involves selfless sacrifice and the strength to make difficult choices.
“Siege and Storm” is a compelling and well-constructed sequel that successfully builds upon the foundations laid in “Shadow and Bone.”
Leigh Bardugo skillfully deepens the Grishaverse with rich world-building and complex characters. The novel excels in its portrayal of Alina’s internal struggle, balancing the weight of her growing powers and the responsibilities they bring.
The introduction of new characters, especially Nikolai, adds fresh dynamics and intrigue, eventually setting a high bar for the concluding part of the trilogy, leaving readers eagerly anticipating the resolution of Alina’s journey.